One Hour With You (1932)

We end this tour of Lubitsch’s middle period for now with probably the best and funniest film in the Lubitsch musicals box. That said, if The Smiling Lieutenant wasn’t the happiest production, this one was positively fraught… while working on Broken Lullaby (his last drama film and a big flop), he was also assigned to oversee the then up-and-coming director George Cukor, who was making another Chevalier/MacDonald musical; he began by throwing out the script and changing the film to a remake of his own 1924 film The Marriage Circle, then started directing scenes, then gradually the whole thing, until it all ended in a lawsuit over who should get directorial credit. You would never guess any of this from the film itself, of course, which presents us with another love triangle, or a love shape of some sort; unusually for this set, Chevalier and MacDonald actually begin as a perfectly happy married couple, Andre and Colette, but marital bliss finds itself shaken up by a visit from Colette’s old friend Mitzi. When the latter has an unexpected encounter with Andre in a taxi, it sets a nice bit of infidelity drama in motion, made all the more amusing by the fact that Andre doesn’t really want an affair with Mitzi and that Colette suspects he’s having an affair with another woman entirely. Meanwhile Colette also has unwanted attention of her own to face from Adolphe (subject of perhaps the funniest scene in this entire collection: when Adolphe asks his butler why he lied to him about Andre and Colette hosting a costume party, the latter replies about wanting to see his master wearing tights). At 78 minutes, it’s the shortest of these four films, and bears witness to everything I’ve ever said about the superior storytelling economy of older films. A successful conclusion to a generally successful box set from Eclipse…

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